How To Change Beneficiary On Will

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| 4 min. read |

A beneficiary is a person or legal entity that is entitled to receive the proceeds from an estate, trust, retirement account, life insurance policy, or transfer on death accounts. Regularly reviewing your named beneficiary and modifying your will regularly can ensure your assets remain protected according to your wishes.

Making an estate plan is not complete without creating a last will. It's always a good idea to create your Will early and set a direction for handling your property, assets, and loved ones after your passing. While Wills are based on current circumstances, situations can change over the years that may require updating of Wills. It can be for significant events such as childbirth, death, marriage, divorce, or other life-changing occasions. Knowing how to change beneficiary on will documents is an important factor in ensuring proper care of your real estate and other assets.

Even after completing your estate planning, you can review your documents and make Will modifications or create a new one at any time. Provided you're mentally competent – it's advisable to do reviews of your Will every three to five years. If you would like to change the beneficiary on a will – whether adding or removing, it's crucial to know the process. Here, we'll discuss everything necessary information you need to know concerning how to change the beneficiary on Will and the typical questions people have when going through the process.

What is a Beneficiary?

The term beneficiary is common in Wills, trusts, and insurance policies. Naming a beneficiary in your Will or revocable living trust gives them legal rights to receive and inherit assets in your estate when you pass away. You can name anyone as your beneficiary. The common choices include spouse, children, relatives, friends, domestic partners, or charities. 

Different beneficiary types allow you to outline the order for your beneficiaries to receive your assets. These includes:

  • Primary beneficiary: This person or organization is the first to receive certain benefits from your assets.

  • Secondary or Contingent beneficiary: When the primary beneficiary predeceases the owner, this person or organization named the secondary beneficiary receives the benefits.  

Process Of Changing a Will

Safeguarding your loved ones and protecting your legacy requires regular updates. Some people feel it's impossible without a lawyer. You can amend your Will without a lawyer. There are three ways to make updates and manage the beneficiaries: 

Create a Will Codicil  

A codicil is a legal document of amendment with full testamentary effect to modify a current Will and update your estate plan according to the changes in your life. Suppose one of your beneficiaries gets married, and you need to update the name, or you would instead name someone else as Executor. Creating a codicil is a quick way to make simple updates to your Will. 

The original Will remains valid and in effect, but the codicil serves as a secondary document stating your intended changes. By formally writing the specific changes – whether addition or taking something out, attaching a codicil to Will ensures both copies are read as one document. For this option to be valid in most states, it's important to prepare and sign the Will and codicil according to the same rules that apply to wills in the presence of two witnesses.

How To Make A New Will

Learn how to make a new will with the proper steps to ensure that it stands in place of an old or existing will you wish to replace. Revoking your old Will and writing a new one to include the essential update is often the easiest choice. Especially if you're making a more significant change, such as the beneficiary, choosing this option is safer.

Even if you don't need an attorney to write a new Will, the state law dictates the best approach to making the new Will. Depending on your state, it may require you to follow the same legalities imposed on codicil. In your new Will, you need to declare that you revoke all previous Will – listing each one by date. The new Will replaces the previous one and eliminates every potential confusion or contest about honoring the updates after your death.

Make A Personal Property Memorandum

Your original Will may have a personal property memorandum that you can replace to make changes to your Will. Like the codicil, the personal property memorandum is attached to your Will. It's appropriate to leave specific items for beneficiaries””for instance, gifting a painting to a nephew or a signed World Series basketball to a beneficiary. Suppose you no longer have such items in your possession or intend to change the receiver. Detaching the old memorandum and replacing it with a new one can initiate this change.

Changing this document type doesn't necessarily require witnesses or bear signatures, but you should have a reference in your Will. Hence, this option of changing your legal documents only works if you already have a memorandum included in your original Will. With a statement to refer to the memorandum from your Will, creating or changing the attached document can apply specific changes to your Will. 

How Wills.Com Can Assist With

Whether you have just experienced a major life event or haven't visited your Will in years, and a few things have changed over the years, now is an excellent time to update your Will and protect your family after you are gone. 

Changing your beneficiary on Will doesn't have to be difficult, time-consuming, or expensive. Connecting with allows easy changes to a will through the online system. As long as you have the correct documents for Will preparation, this avenue makes it simple to change beneficiaries without the added cost of codicil with an estate planning attorney. 

Frequently Asked Questions On How To Change Beneficiary On Will

By now, we've outlined the importance of having a will to protect assets and loved ones. Naming a beneficiary is an important part of creating a Will. Once a will is established, however, it's important that it gets routinely reviewed. 

How Often Should A Will Be Modified

Even without any significant life changes, it's good to review your documents and estate plan every five years to ensure it reflects your wishes. You may also have to confirm any current changes in the law that can impact your Will from your Estate attorneys. 

Can A Will Change Be Handwritten?

There are several actions you can make to your Will. But since different states have different laws to guide these delicate matters, you need to tread carefully. 

Even if it's possible to make handwritten changes to your Will, you need to ensure it's acceptable in your state. Although making handwritten changes is not advisable since family members with access can make unauthorized changes to your Will. The Will is most effective when the updates are as solid as possible.

What Makes A New Will Legal And How to Replace An Old Will Formally

To avoid tampering with the validity of your Will while making updates, you can make a new will or add a codicil. But you can ensure your Will is effective without confusion by declaring in your new Will that you revoke all previous Wills with their respective dates. You can also take safer measures by destroying all original copies of the old Will in front of witnesses. 

The legalities of your new Will can depend on your state's laws. Therefore, it's appropriate you have the proper signatures and witnesses. Also, store your original document somewhere safe to keep it authentic and ensure you inform someone you trust of the location of your estate planning documents and your new Will. 

Should An Executor Be Notified Of Changes?

Even though it's not necessary to disclose the changes in your Will to the executors, notifying them in advance is often a good idea. It helps them know the position of trust you want them to take up and the potential roles they have to play in the administration of your estate. In case they don't want the position, early information allows them the opportunity to decline for you to find an appropriate substitute politely.

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